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The three characters in the poem are Campbell, his mother, and his wife. None is described in any detail. Although we may conclude that the family is well off and perhaps noble, details do not seem to matter; the poem focuses only on the climax of a series of actions. Bonny George Campbell is clearly dead, having ridden away to an unspecified battle—probably a border skirmish. He has been killed, and his horse returns home without him. We may infer that his comrades, too, were also killed, because if they had survived they would have brought the corpse home. The ballad leaves us to imagine these events, first of all, because our discovery deepens our awareness and our involvement with the poem, and second, because the ballad is a short form, at its best when it touches the main details without superfluous explanations.
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